'Rocket Attack' – the name of which is not designed very well – is a skill-based game where the player needs to defeat enemies to gain further access to the game. The game is separated into two main phases: the buying phase and the combat phase. The goal of the game is to maintain an army during the buying phase and kill as much enemy units as possible during the combat phase. These enemies will provide money to buy and repair new units that will aid the player in future fights. As the player progresses, these enemy units will increase in strength. In order to make it to the end of the game, the player has to balance his acts between the buying phase and the combat phase.
What went well?
Designing the maintenance phase of the game (which is a fancy name for the 'buying of units' phase) went pretty smoothly. First, I wanted to add only drones, which attack enemy units but when I prototyped this, it made not as much sense because that lacked a real dynamic economy. The next thing I came up with were banks, which provide a steady money flow for the player but they are also quite vulnerable and cannot move. This adds much more to the dynamic of the economy because it gives the player a choice what to build and base his future strategy on it. After that, the choice to add mines was simple because the implementation wasn't very difficult and it makes room for more strategy, although it doesn't add much to the dynamic economy.
What went wrong?
Adding the dynamic economy was really hard to balance because it is a very delicate design. If the player made too much money after each wave, the game wasn't any fun because the player could just let his army fight all the waves. If he got too little money, the game wouldn't be fun either because the player wouldn't be able to buy anything and die all the time. To find the right balance for the mines, drones and enemies turned out to be a lot harder as well, for approximately the same reasons as balancing the money flow. During play-tests with different people (some casual, like my roommates, some hardcore, like people from school) I had to adjust the values again and again.
There are three feedback loops that have the most noticeable influence on the game. Two of those are negative and one is positive.
Economy Building Mechanisms
there are three economy building mechanisms in Rocket Attack:
During play-tests in the dynamics theme of the game, the balance was very important. It was difficult to make the game challenging but not impossible and have the Building/ Maintaining phase of the game add just enough, without the enemies or structures being killed instantly leaving little window open for interactive and fun play. This was hard and had to be tested again and again. The second thing that I got commented on was that adding a bounty system wasn't really that useful if there was a fixed number of enemies in every wave (because no matter how well the player performed, he would always get the same amount of money from bounties). I agreed to this statement and changed the enemy waves in such a way that there was a fixed time window in which enemies would spawn. It was up to the players performance how much enemies would be killed in those time windows.